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Villains by Sue Kendall

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  2. 2. RASPUTIN 1 My ChildhoodMy name is Grigori Yemifovich Rasputin and I was born on 10th January, 1869 in asmall village in Siberia, in northern Russia - one of the coldest places in the world.My family were peasants and worked very hard. During the long difficult winters inSiberia, there was very little to do. In the evenings, we usually sat beside the fireand played cards. Summers were hot and I could run outside with my youngersister, Maria, and my older brother, Dimitri.Maria was not very strong and one day, while we were swimming in the river, shedrowned. Nobody knew how it happened, but my mother blamed me. ‘You’reresponsible for this tragedy, Grigori.’ She said. ‘You didn’t watch your sister.’Another day, Dimitri and I were playing in the forest, climbing trees and runningafter each other. Then, we jumped into the river to catch some fish. We held eachother’s heads under the water for a long time – just for fun – and he didn’t come up.I tried to pull him out of the river, but he was too heavy for me. I panicked andbegan to shout, ‘Help! Help! My brother is drowning!’Suddenly, a man heard me. He jumped into the water and pulled my brother out ofthe river. He helped him breathe again and, after a few minutes, Dimitri sat up and 2
  3. 3. looked around. He was very angry with me. ‘You tried to kill me!’ he shouted at me.‘How could you do that? I’m your brother.’I didn’t answer him. After that, Dimitri got pneumonia. He died a few days later.Then, I was the only child in my family. * * *I discovered my special powers during my childhood. In our village, Pokrovskoe,and in many other Siberian villages, people usually met in homes in the evening.One night, everybody came to our house. I was ill all the time, but I listened to theconversations in the other room. My father told his friends about the theft of hisfavourite horse. As soon as I heard this, I went into the room in my nightshirt andpointed to one of the visitors. ‘This man stole your horse, Father!’ I said. Myparents and the visitors were very embarrassed and said nothing. Later, some ofthe villagers were curious to see if I was right. They went with my father to theman’s house and saw the stolen horse there. My father brought the horse homeand the man was immediately arrested.The next morning, people came to make the sign of the Cross and pray in front ofour house, they marvelled at my’ powers’, but this confused me.Soon, this incident became a legend in our village. Every time somebody came tovisit, my father told the story of his son and the horse thief. It made meuncomfortable because I didn’t really understand it. Did I really have strangepowers? This thought frightened me very much.I grew up and became a cart driver like my father. I got married and had threechildren. I called two of them Maria and Dimitri, after my dead sister and brother.Then, at the age of thirty-three, I drove a very special man in my cart and hechanged my life. He was studying to be a priest at the Verkhoture monastery. Hetold me about his very unusual kind of Christianity and I was fascinated. At the endof the trip, he convinced me to stay in the monastery and learn the teachings of hisgroup. I stayed there for three months and during this time, I became veryreligious.After leaving the monastery, I went to visit a religious man in a distant forest, anOrthodox priest named Father Makari. ‘My son,’ he said to me, ‘you’ve got much tolearn about the world. You must leave your wife, children and possessions. God hascalled you.’I was very excited to hear these words. It was my new dream to dedicate my life toGod. I returned home to say goodbye to my wife and family. They accepted mydecision. If I was “called to God”, I didn’t have an option, they believed. I completely 3
  4. 4. abandoned my family. What did my children think about my disappearance fromtheir lives? I don’t know, because the truth is, I didn’t ask them. * * *I travelled for years and lived like a vagabond. While I was travelling, I cured manysick people and spoke about my new teachings. I lived on donations and charity.Rumours circulated about my special powers. They called my acts, miracles.Finally, I returned to Pokrovskoe, but not to my family. I went to live in a secretunderground room. My hair and beard grew long and I wore a black robe. Somecalled me the “Mad Monk”. My family visited me and always found me praying andasking for God’s pardon on my knees. I shouted and cried and repeated hundredsof times, “Lord have compassion on us.” My wife and father often went on theirknees and prayed with me. They couldn’t stop themselves. They looked into myeyes and I hypnotized them. I often questioned these strange powers I possessed.Many people began to come to me for help and soon, I became famous in the wholearea. But some people didn’t believe in my teachings. One day, a priest arrived inProkovskoe. He wanted to know the truth about me and we started to talk. Soon,we began to argue about religion. He looked into my eyes and began to tremblewith fear. Strange sounds came from his mouth. He repeated them over and overagain, but I couldn’t understand him and he ran away. He immediately wrote aletter to the Church about my “evil teachings”. He called me a false prophet, andsuggested the Church should fight me. ‘The devil is inside Rasputin,’ he said. ‘He’san evil, dangerous man.’ 2 Life at the PalaceOne day, I received a special visitor – a very beautiful woman from Tsar Nicholas’court. ‘My name is Anna Vyrubova,’ she said. ‘I’m a good friend of TsarinaAlexandra, the Tsar’s wife. She has sent me to you to ask for help.’‘But how can I help the Tsarina?’ I asked.‘She’s heard about your special powers and she needs your help to cure her son,’she explained.‘What is her son’s problem?’ I asked, although I already knew about his disease.Alexei was the only son, born after four daughters. He was the heir to the Romanovdynasty and they needed a healthy heir. 4
  5. 5. ‘Alexei is very ill,’ she explained. ‘He’s got a serious blood disease calledhemophilia. According to the doctors, he got it from his great grandmother, QueenVictoria of England. But now, he’s in great danger. When he was on holiday withhis family, he fell off a horse and hurt himself badly. Because of his disease, he’slost a lot of blood and continues to lose more. The doctors say nothing can helphim and he’s probably going to die soon. Tsarina Alexandra sent me to you. Canyou come to the palace and save him?’I couldn’t ignore Tsarina Alexandra so, of course, I went to help. I rode to thepalace as quickly as I could. The Tsarina was very happy to see me. ‘Please comeand look at my boy,’ she said. ‘He’s getting worse every moment. We can’t stop theblood. If you don’t help him soon, he’ll die.’I sat down beside the boy. His eyes were closed and he looked very pale. I held hishand, prayed hard and tried to pass my strength to him. After a short time, heopened his eyes and looked at me. By the evening, he was feeling better and in afew days, he was playing outside. I can’t explain, but that’s how it was.Another time, I was asked to help Alexei again. The Tsar and his wife were in StPetersburg at the time, and I was in my house in Siberia. Even from far away, Icould help him with my prayers.I helped Alexei every time the Tsarina asked me to. He began to feel much betterand the family began to trust me. ‘Rasputin, God speaks to me through you,’ theTsarina said. The Tsar called me “our friend” or “Rasputin, the religious man”.Because of this, I soon became famous all over Russia.I could also predict the future, so the Tsar began to ask my advice, and after awhile, I moved to the court and became his best advisor. I was a very powerfulperson. If somebody wanted to see the Tsar or the Tsarina, he needed to get mypermission first.Because of my special position, I began to have enemies among important politicaland religious people in St Petersburg. Some began to spy on me and print badthings about me in the newspapers. The entire country knew if I did somethingwrong.One day, I was sitting with the Tsar and the Tsarina, and some nobles came to talkto the Tsar. It was too late to prevent them entering the court.‘Your Majesty,’ one of them said. ‘You must tell this man to leave your court. He’scausing you great damage and he gives you bad advice. He lives an unclean life,very different from his beliefs. All of this is having a bad effect on your people.’ 5
  6. 6. ‘That’s ridiculous!’ said the Tsar. ‘Rasputin is the most religious man in Russia andhe cured my son. How can you say these terrible things about him? Leave my courtand never come back again!’I won this battle with the nobles of the Tsar’s court, but there were other battles tocome. 3 The War BeginsWorld War I was a difficult time for Russia, and for me as well. The people accusedme of being unpatriotic and a spy. They also attacked Tsarina Alexandra. ‘Shewants to destroy Russia because she was born in Germany,’ they said. ‘She’s spyingfor the German enemy.’I tried to do something to help the Russian people. We were losing the war badlyand I wanted to understand the reason for this. I decided to go to the fighting, butthe commander of the Russian Army, Grand Duke Nicholas, didn’t let me go. Iwanted to bless the soldiers and try to keep them safe. But the Grand Duke didn’ttrust me, and his answer was very clear. ‘I’ll kill you if you try to come!’ he said. So Istayed in the court and did as much as I could to help the Tsar and Tsarina in thosedifficult times.One night, I had an important dream and I told the Tsar about it the next morning.‘I dreamed the Russian army won’t win this war until you personally take controlof the army.’‘Should I do that?’ he asked me, a little nervous. ‘If you say so, I’ll do it.’‘Yes, Your Highness. Your people need to see you in battle. You must be preparedto die for your country like them,’ I said. ‘This will give them courage and maybehelp them change the situation.’‘Then I’ll do it,’ he said. ‘Thank you, Rasputin. You’ve shown me my responsibility.’After this, the Tsar went to take part in the fighting, even though he didn’t havemuch experience of war.While he was away, the Tsarina was very worried all the time. She began to dependon me more and more to help her make decisions. I was her favourite advisor andshe trusted me completely. I used my situation to dismiss some of my enemies inthe court. One of them was a lady called Tyutcheva. She tried to stop me fromspending time with some of the women in the court. So I told the Tsarina to sendher away and she did. I also began to choose people to control many government 6
  7. 7. offices. This way, I had more control of the court and my personal fortune grewconsiderably.But the war was very expensive, and the Russian economy became worse andworse. The people were very dissatisfied with the Tsarina, and, because I was hermain advisor, they were also dissatisfied with me. There were also a lot of rumoursabout our relationship.At that time, public opinion was starting to turn against the monarchy. Manypeople wanted “a government of the people, by the people”. They didn’t want theRomanov family on the throne any more. They spoke in public against the familyand in favour of this new kind of government. They also wrote many articles aboutthis in all the newspapers.The newspapers also attacked me because I argued with many important people inthe Russian Orthodox Church. In contrast to these church leaders, I believed peoplecould talk directly to God, and didn’t have to go through priests and churches. Ibelieved we could all learn humility by asking God to pardon our sins. The Tsarinaand the ladies of her court agreed with my view. But the Church was furious andsaid I used this belief as an excuse to sin as much as I wanted.They disliked my relationship with the Tsarina. She was a very religious woman,they said, and could be easily influenced by me. The nobles and the Church startedto pressure me to leave the court.One of them, Vladimir Purishkevich, made a speech in the Duma, the parliament ofRussia. ‘The Tsar’s ministers have become marionettes,’ he said. ‘Rasputin andTsarina Alexandra control them. He’s the devil genius of Russia. She’s a German onthe Russian throne and the enemy of the country and its people. The people’srespect for the monarchy is gone. Now, St Petersburg is a corrupted city and all thisis because of the villain, Rasputin.’Another important noble, Felix Yusupov, listened carefully to Purishkevich’sspeech. Afterwards, he went to see Purishkevich. In that meeting, they both agreedto find a way to kill me.It was not the first time somebody wanted to kill me. Once, a few years earlier, Iwas attacked in Pokrovskoe by a disciple of the monk Iliodor. He hated me becauseof my religious beliefs and taught his disciples to hate me, too. One of his disciples,a woman called Guseva, stabbed me in my stomach. I fell to the ground and sheshouted for joy, ‘He’s dead! He’s dead! The evil man is dead!’ But I recovered andafter that, I felt invincible.For that reason, I wasn’t afraid when my spies told me about the meeting betweenYusupov and Purishkevich. 7
  8. 8. 4 Yusupov’s StoryMy name is Felix Yusupov. I am one of the brave Russians responsible for the deathof that evil demon, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, I am proud to say. It was not easy,but in the end, we finally killed him. Let me tell you how it happened.On 16th December, 1916, I invited Rasputin and several of my noble friends to myhouse. Rasputin wasn’t suspicious about this invitation. We served him cake andred wine, both filled with cyanide, the most deadly poison in the world. My friend,Vasily Maklakov, put enough poison into the food to kill five men! But, to our greatsurprise, nothing happened. Rasputin continued eating the cake, drinking the wineand talking about his religious beliefs.I began to get very nervous and I said quietly to my friends, ‘If we don’t kill himbefore morning, we won’t have time to hide the body. We must do something.’ I ranto get my revolver, came back and shot Rasputin through the back. He fell to thefloor and we quickly left the palace to wait for him to die. I came back later andleaned over his body to see if he was dead.Suddenly, to my great shock, Rasputin opened his eyes and pulled me down by mycoat. He stared into my eyes and said, ‘You evil boy!’ Then, he tried to strangle me. Itried to escape, but he was very strong. Fortunately, my friends came into the roomat the moment and shot him three times and he fell to the floor once more. But hewas still alive!It was incredible, but he tried to get up again. We hit him with sticks until he finallystopped moving. Then, we covered his body with a sheet and threw him into theicy Neva River.Three days later, Rasputin’s body was pulled from the river. An autopsy showedthe cause of death was drowning. His hands were held out in front of him, as if hewas still trying to get out from under the ice. There was water in his lungs. Wepoisoned him, shot him four times and hit him several times but we couldn’t killhim. In the end, he died from drowning – the same way his brother and sister died.So justice was done.EpilogueTsarina Alexandra buried Rasputin’s body near one of her palaces. She wanted himclose to her forever. But after the February Revolution of 1917, a group of workerstook Rasputin’s body out of the ground to a nearby forest and burned it. While they 8
  9. 9. were burning the body, something incredible happened. According to the legend,the body moved and tried to sit up! Later, scientists explained this phenomenon.‘Rasputin’s body wasn’t prepared well for burning,’ they said. ‘Its tendonscontracted and this caused his legs to bend and his body to sit up!’ But at the time,nobody knew this and everybody ran away in fear. They thought Rasputin wascoming to life again!Before he died, Rasputin left a letter. This was discovered by his secretary,Simonovich, and published some time later:I am writing this letter in St Petersburg in 1916 and leave it to be opened after mydeath. I know I will be dead by 1st January 1917.I wish to tell the Russian people my prophecy. If I am killed by common assassins orby Russian peasants, the Tsar of Russia will have nothing to fear for his children. TheRomanovs will govern for hundreds of years.However, if I am murdered by nobles of the Tsar’s family, none of his children orrelations will stay alive for more than two years. The Russian people will kill them. Grigori Yefimovich RasputinSo Rasputin’s prophecy was realised. Nobles killed him and the Russian Revolutionstarted a month later. Theirs was the last monarchy of Russia. Tsar Nicholas andhis entire family were killed and the Romanov rule ended. Rasputin’s vengeancewas quick. 9
  10. 10. CATHERINE DE MEDICIAll through history, many women have had an immense influence on the society oftheir time. One of these women was Catherine de Medici, an Italian woman and later,the Queen of France.History has painted Catherine de Medici as “Madame Serpent”, an evil queen with astrong need for power. This led to dark crimes, poisonings, spying and evenwitchcraft. After her death, her letters revealed many cruel thoughts and murderousplans. Some historians have blamed her difficult early life for many of her worstactions. Others say she fought a desperate battle for control of the kingdom, wantingonly to keep her family on the throne at all the costs. This is her story. 10
  11. 11. 1 ChildhoodMy name is Catherine de Medici and I was born in Florence in 1519. My parents, Iwas told later, were “as happy as if I were a boy”. But the astrologers were not sohappy. My parents consulted them soon after my birth. ‘Your daughter will nothave an easy life,’ they said. ‘She is going to cause trouble for her husband’s familyand finally, she will destroy them completely.’Then, they gave my parents some advice. ‘You should put her in a basket and leaveher on the city wall. If you are lucky, a cannon ball will hit her. If you don’t want todo this, then send her to a closed convent for the rest of her life.’ It’s hard toimagine my parents’ response to this piece of advice!Soon after my birth, my mother died of the plague. She was only 17 at the time. Afew days later, my father died too and I became an orphan at only 12 days old. Iwas very rich, because I was the only heiress of the Medici family, one of therichest and most powerful families in Italy. They governed Florence and the areaaround it. My great grandfather was a diplomat and a politician. He helped manyintellectuals, artists and poets to create one of the greatest periods in Italian art,music and literature, the Renaissance. My father, the Duke of Urbino, was apowerful politician and soldier. After my parents died, all the property and fortuneof the Medici family belonged to me. Everybody began to call me the “poor littlerich girl”.At first, I lived with my grandmother, but she died a year later, and then I went tolive with my aunt. This was a nice time for me because I had some cousins to playwith. Finally, my father’s distant relative, Cardinal Giulio de Medici, came toFlorence to control the government there and to take care of me. I lived in thepalace with him, but this wasn’t as much fun as living with my cousins. The peopleof Florence called me duchessina, the little duchess, because of my father, the duke.One day, there was a rebellion against my family. The people of Florence werealways envious of the fortune and power of the Medicis. I was only eight years oldat the time, but I represented the Medicis for those people. An angry crowdattacked our palace. I can’t forget that day. The rebels stood outside and threwstones at the palace. They shouted, ‘Down with the Medicis!’ and they tried,unsuccessfully, to enter the palace by force.Finally, my relatives talked with the crowd. After a long discussion, the rebelsagreed to let the family leave the palace safely – except for me. I was forced to stayinside the palace with the rebels. I was sure they were going to kill me. I tried to bebrave, but it was very difficult. I was eight years old and totally alone. I didn’tforgive my family for leaving me, even though I never said a word about it later.But that bad experience burned inside me and created a need for vengeance. 11
  12. 12. In the end, the rebels didn’t kill me and they left the palace. My family returned,convinced that my presence in the palace was putting their lives in danger. Theythought it would be better for me to leave the palace, so they sent me to differentconvents in and around Florence. I spent the next five years studying in thoseconvents. The nuns were very strict but they took good care of me and my lifewasn’t so bad. I received an excellent education and became one of the best-educated women of my time.After my return to the palace, the fighting began again and I was in danger oncemore. The crowd shouted, ‘Give us Catherine! Kill Catherine!’ I hid in a cupboard inmy bedroom, too frightened even to cry, but they found me. Several men came intomy room and they took me out of the palace. I was forced to ride through thestreets on a donkey. The angry crowd shouted terrible things and threw food andstones at me. I was sure I was going to die this time and it was a terrible,frightening experience for me. I survived the experience, but I was traumatised byit forever.After the fighting ended, my relative, Giulio de Medici, invited me to live with himin Rome. He was now Pope Clement VII, and a very powerful man. On my arrival,he kissed me, and with tears in his eyes, he promised to protect me. I was verythankful to him.Living with the Pope in Rome was not much fun for a young girl, but at least Istarted to feel safe again. No doubt these very dramatic experiences in mychildhood made me a very angry person, and later, I released this anger on manyother people. 2 Madame SerpentAfter a short time, the Pope decided that I should get married. I was sent to Franceto marry Henry of Orleans, the second son of King Francis I of France, and amember of the Valois family.At the age of 14, I was short, thin, with fair hair, and not very pretty. I had the big,prominent eyes of the Medici family. But I tried to make a good impression at mywedding celebration at the Royal Court of France. I decided to organize amagnificent entrance into the ceremony and I asked an artisan from Florence forhelp. He surprised me with a wonderful idea. He made a pair of high-heeled shoesfor me – the first in the world – and I walked into the wedding ceremony muchtaller than I really was. All the people of the court held their breath. I wasn’tbeautiful, but I was certainly impressive. 12
  13. 13. Life wasn’t easy for me in the French court and I was very lonely. The French didn’trespect me because I wasn’t a royal princess. For them, I was just a politician’sdaughter and everybody ignored me.I wanted food from home to help me feel better. I brought several Italian cooks tothe French court and they tried to comfort me. They made all my favourite dessertsfrom my homeland – Italian sorbets, cakes and tarts. Surprisingly, the French courtloved them. My cooks also introduced new vegetables to the French court –broccoli, peas and green beans. They prepared different kinds of meats in delicateItalian sauces and the French ate them with great enthusiasm. I even tried to teachthem table manners – they didn’t even know how to use a knife and fork – but Iwas not successful at this!My married life was not very happy. I loved my husband, Henry, but he was in lovewith another woman. Long before my arrival in France, my husband began arelationship with his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, a woman 20 years older than him.He always wore her colours of black and white to show how much he cared for her.He also presented her with the jewels of the Royal Family. She continued beingloyal to him until his death. Of course, I was jealous and I hated her.I began to travel around France with my husband’s father, King Francis I, and I sawa lot of the country in a short time. Soon, the king realised I was a wonderfultravelling companion. He appreciated intelligent women and though I was notbeautiful, my passion for study made him love me very much. But, other than theking, I didn’t have one friend in all of France, nor any influence in the court. I wasyoung, a foreigner from a country with little power in the world of politics, and Ihad no experience in these matters. But I observed everything in the palacecarefully and I never forgot anything.I lived a quiet life – some people would say a mysterious one – with my Italianservants. I learned French, Latin and Greek although I always made errors inFrench on purpose. I tried to appear less educated than I really was. I also studiedmathematics, natural history, astronomy and astrology, and I had a passionateinterest in tarot cards. I built an observatory in the palace. I often consultedastronomers and intellectuals with philosophical questions, and asked astrologersfor advice before taking important decisions. It was unusual at that time for awoman to be as well educated as I was, and many people were intimidated by myintellect.My favourite advisor was Nostradamus, the famous French astronomer andpsychic. He predicted my husband’s early death in a jousting match and that I wasgoing to live longer than all but one of my sons, although three would become king.I didn’t always like the things he said but in the end most of them were realised. Ibecame his patron and protector, so he could continue his studies. During my sonHenry’s reign, I made Nostradamus his personal doctor and royal advisor. 13
  14. 14. I also became interested in poisons. I kept them hidden in 200 cupboards in myrooms. I brought many sick, unfortunate people into the palace to test my poisonson them. I even sent my priests to Egypt to bring back mummies for myexperiments. Slowly, I perfected my talent with poisons and I used it later withgreat success. The French always thought of Italians as poisoners and murderers,so they were very suspicious of me. Because of my unusual interests, I becameknown as “Madame Serpent”. 3 Henry Becomes KingMy husband’s older brother, the Dauphin Francis, was next in line to the Frenchthrone after King Francis’ death. I decided I must remove him from this position sothat my husband, Henry, could be king and I could be queen. Since I wasn’t veryattractive, I needed other women to help me manipulate my enemies. That is why Isurrounded myself with beautiful women. These women brought lots of deliciousfood to my husband’s brother, Francis, but the food had poison in it. The womenbrought him poisonous fish sauces and decorated apples and cakes. He could notresist them. I sat with him at dinner while he was eating, and talked to him as ifnothing was wrong.One evening, in 1536, I watched excitedly as he began to feel sicker and sicker untilfinally, he fell over. His servants carried him to his bedroom and he died that night.My plan was successful and I was happy: Henry was next in line for the Frenchthrone!But the French people weren’t happy at all. They didn’t want an Italian queen,especially one without royal blood. They looked for a reason to replace me andchose the fact that we didn’t have any children. This was a good enough reason toremove me from the throne. ‘This woman is unacceptable,’ the people said. ‘Theking must get a divorce. We must have a new queen and she must give him manyroyal children.’I looked for help to medicine, astrology and magic and soon, I began to havechildren one after the other. Over the next ten years, I had ten children! Three ofthem died as babies but three of the others later became kings of France – FrancisII, Charles IX and Henry III. My position was safe!In 1547, my husband’s father, King Francis I, died of natural causes. I loved himand didn’t want to hurt him, not even to become queen. I was very sad to lose myonly friend in the French court. My husband became King Henry II of France and Ibecame Queen Catherine. However, during my husband’s reign, I didn’t have muchpower. My husband spent much of his time with Diane de Poitiers and she had 14
  15. 15. complete control over him. She controlled the court and made all the importantdecisions for the country. This made me very angry, but I kept my feelings tomyself, although I plotted and schemed in my heart.As Nostradamus predicted, in 1559 my husband died in a jousting match and myweak, 15-year-old son became King Francis II. To my delight, Diane de Poitiersimmediately became a “nobody”. Francis was married to Mary, Queen of Scots, butshe was not interested in politics and was controlled by her uncles, the cardinal ofLorraine and the Duke of Guise. Soon, I got tired of their power and began to planways to take some of it from them. My poor Francis died a year later in a ridingaccident and then my ten-year-old son, Charles, became King Charles IX.After years of silence as Henry’s wife, I began to have more and more power in thecourt during the reigns of my sons. I had a wonderful life. I gave magnificentparties at the Chateau de Fontainebleau and I invented games and dances toentertain everybody. I was a great archer and I loved hunting. I built and decoratedthe Tuileries Palace and designed the Tuileries Garden in Paris. I even began towrite political pamphlets. This life continued for over 20 years.But it was a difficult period in French history – the time of the French Wars ofReligion. There was constant fighting between the Protestants and the Catholics. Atfirst, I listened to my moderate advisors and tried to speak to both sides and solvethe conflicts. But I wasn’t a moderate character. Sometimes I supported theCatholics because I was a Catholic myself. But other times, I supported theProtestants because it helped to weaken the power of Mary’s family, especially deDuke of Guise.I saw politics as a career. I believed politicians needed to use secrecy, lies andmurder to win. I studied, The Prince, Machiavelli’s book written as a guide for myfather in Florence. I worried about my sons’ health because they were allphysically weak, and because of Nostradamus’ predictions of their early deaths.After endless civil wars, I decided to try politics again. One of the best ways tosolve political problems was to marry my children to important allies. I marriedmy first daughter, Elizabeth of Valois, to Philip II of Spain and my third daughter tothe Duke of Navarre. I also tried to marry my third son to Queen Elizabeth I ofEngland, but this plan wasn’t successful.Finally, I invited Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, a leader of the Protestants, to thepalace. My son Charles admired him very much and he began to be influenced bythe admiral’s political ideas. Soon, my son and I started to argue and ourrelationship was in danger. I had only one choice – to kill Coligny before it was toolate.I ordered his murder but the attempt failed, although the admiral was hurt. Then, Ibecame desperate. This time, I ordered the murder of Coligny and all his Protestant 15
  16. 16. followers. This event began on the night of 24th August, 1572 and was later calledthe St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. 4 The St Bartholomew’s day MassacreOn the evening before St Bartholomew’s Day, the city gates were locked, boatswere tied to the riverbank and many weapons were collected. The houses of theProtestants were all marked with a cross. That evening, I invited everybody to seea new ballet, Le Ballet Comique de la Reine (The Comic Ballet of the Queen). I wrotethe story myself and was very proud of it. It was performed at a banquet andeverybody enjoyed it very much.At around two in the morning, my men rang all the church bells. Then, theyattacked Coligny’s house, killing everybody in their way. They wore white shirtsand decorated their hats with white crosses. The attackers ran into the admiral’sroom carrying swords, daggers, lances and guns. Coligny was still recovering fromthe murder attempt a few days before. They killed him in his bed and threw himout of the window. The crowds pulled his body through the streets and threw itinto the river Seine. The bells rang from all the towers in Paris, torches were lit,and a night of murder, robbery and burning began all over the city.Protestants were murdered in their beds or chased to the tops of houses andthrown onto the road; bodies were pulled along the streets by ropes and throwninto the Seine. Large piles of bodies were collected outside the Louvre Palace formy son and I to see. Victims were stabbed on bridges, and then pushed into thebloody water of the river Seine. As the survivors began to swim, stones werethrown at them. Women were pulled along the streets. A pack of dogs ran freely,thirsty for the blood in the streets. I ran from window to window of the palace,taking pleasure in the murder of the Protestants below. Was I really an evilwoman?In the chaos, people began to steal everything they could find. Valuable librarieswere robbed. Jewellers, shopkeepers, shoemakers, hat makers and silk merchantswere murdered in this wave of killings.By midday, an official ceasefire was announced, but the killing continued andextended to other cities of France for two more months. Over 20,000 Protestantsdied in the massacre.On 2nd September, a horseman arrived in Rome from Paris with the news of thesuccess of the massacre. He brought Coligny’s head with him. Pope Gregory XIII 16
  17. 17. gave the messenger 100 coins as a reward. Later, a medal was made with thePope’s head on one side and the Angel of Death on the other.I was very satisfied with the success of my plan. Now Coligny was dead, I hadcomplete control of my son the king again. After that, I began to work on thedestruction of the power of the Guise family.But in 1574, Charles died too, and my youngest son Henry became king Henry III.In contrast to his brothers, I had only a limited influence over him. He surroundedhimself with bad advisors and the royal family became very unpopular.I worried about the future of the Valois family as Henry was sterile and had noheirs. When my youngest son, Francis of Valois, died on 10th June, 1584, it wasclear to everybody that the rule of the Valois family would end with the death ofHenry. I could do no more. * * *Catherine de Medici died 15 years later, on 5th January, 1589, a short time before themurder of her son, Henry, on 1st August 1589. The years of her sons’ reigns have beencalled “the age of Catherine de Medici”, because she was so clearly the real powerbehind the throne. 17
  18. 18. SWEENEY TODD The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 1 John Crook: Employer of Sweeney ToddMy name is John Crook and I’m a cutler by profession. My job is to make, sell andrepair all kinds of cutting instruments, from kitchen knives to swords, but mostly Ispecialize in razors. My shop is called “Pistol and C” and it’s located in Holborn,London.One day in winter, a new apprentice came to my shop. He was called SweeneyTodd. He was a thin, sad-looking orphan boy of around 12 and he probably neverhad a decent meal in his life. ‘My mother and father are dead, and there is nowritten record of me anywhere,’ Sweeney explained to me. ‘I was baptized in achurch, but it burned down soon after that, and all the books were burned in it. Thepeople at the church said I should come and work for you. I agreed because I likeknives.’ 18
  19. 19. While he was working for me, I learned a lot about the boy’s unhappy childhood.His family was very poor. They all lived together in one room and had very littlefurniture. From a very early age, Sweeney was forced to work. He helped his familyprepare silk for a clothes factory. In 1758, Sweeney and his father were at the SilkWorkers’ Riots. The workers were protesting against the import of cheap cottoncloth from India, because this took away a lot of their earnings. The young boy sawmany angry and violent scenes there and they left a strong impression on him.To escape his unhappy life, Sweeney spent a lot of time at the Tower of London, notfar from his home. In the past, British kings imprisoned their enemies andunwanted wives in the Tower of London, but later it became a museum and theRoyal Zoo. Sweeney loved listening to the stories of the Tower workers and wasfascinated by the instruments of torture there.After some time, Sweeney began to have confidence in me and tell me more abouthis family. He had a terrible father. ‘He either hit me or ignored me,’ the boy said.But his mother loved him very much. However, Sweeney did not return heraffection. ‘She kissed me and called me “a pretty boy” all the time,’ he told me. ‘Butlater, I wanted to hit her. Why did she bring me into this world if she didn’t haveenough money to help me survive in it?’It was one of the coldest winters in London, and hundreds of poor people werefreezing to death in their homes and on the streets. Two months before Sweeney’sarrival in my shop, his parents went out and left him alone at home. They neverreturned. They probably went to look for alcohol to help them get warm and thenfroze to death while they were looking for it. But Sweeney never forgave them forleaving him alone. The young orphan tried to survive on the streets of London.Soon, he was taken to the local church and they suggested that he find work. I stilldon’t know how he survived until his arrival at my shop because he never talkedabout it. Of course, he didn’t become rich working for me either. Employers didn’tpay their apprentices, because we taught them a profession.Unfortunately, two years after his arrival, Sweeney was arrested for theft. Heprobably also stole from me while he was working for me in my shop. I didn’t catchhim because he was very clever. I was sure the boy was going to be hanged for hiscrime, like most thieves at that time. But the judge had compassion for the poororphan – he was only 14 years old – and sent him to Newgate Prison for five years.Sweeney was very lucky because in those days children were hanged for as little asthe theft of a handkerchief. 19
  20. 20. 2 Elmer Plummer: A Barber at Newgate PrisonNewgate Prison in London is a horrible, frightening place. There are all kinds ofprisoners there. Everybody inside the prison is corrupt. In fact, prisoners leaveNewgate much worse than when they entered. Only prisoners with money aretreated well by the prison workers. Prisoner pay bribes for the simplest things.Somebody with no money is likely to find himself naked and starving in Newgate. Iknow all about it. I’m Elmer Plummer, the prison barber, and I’m a prisoner myself.People outside Newgate considered prisoners to be zoo animals. In fact, Londonerspaid money to get the chance to see some unhappy prisoners in their small cells.Charles Dickens even wrote a book about us called Little Dorrit after his first visitto Newgate.I was serving a four year sentence for theft at the time of Sweeney Todd’s arrival. Imade a good living in the prison, thanks to the large number of rich prisonersthere. They still needed a good shave now and then. One day, Sweeney came to meand asked me to teach him my profession. I agreed, and even gave him some of myearnings.Soon, we became good friends. I taught him how to be a barber and also how tosteal. One of my jobs was to shave prisoners before their hanging and Sweeneyoften helped me in this job. We stole any coins from the pockets of the prisonerswhile we were shaving them. Well, they certainly didn’t need them!But Sweeney was an angry, violent person. He often thought of cutting the throatsof these poor men. The longer he stayed inside Newgate Prison, the angrier hebecame towards the people outside. During his stay in Newgate, he promised totake vengeance against society as soon as he was free.Sweeney Todd left prison at the age of 19, and I saw him from time to time outside.He started working as a travelling barber and practiced his trade in any free space.Travelling barbers often got into fights over their territory – fights that sometimesended in bloodshed.During his time as a travelling barber, Sweeney committed his first murder. He wasliving with a woman at the time and he was a very jealous person. One afternoon, adrunken man came to him for a shave and told him about his love affair with awoman. He described her and she was very similar to Sweeney’s woman. Sweeneycould not control his anger and he used his razor to kill for the first time. ‘My firstone was a young Gent at Hyde Park Corner,’ Sweeney later confessed to me. ‘I cuthim from ear to ear.’ 20
  21. 21. Sweeney Todd was never brought to justice for this crime. The incident, however,ended his relationship with the young woman, and he was forced to practice hisprofession in a different place for a while.Several years after his first murder, Sweeney earned enough money to buy a shopin Fleet Street. The choice of Fleet Street for a barber’s shop was unusual becausethere were not many barbers in that part of the city – this was the famous street ofthe newspaper publishers.Sweeney’s shop was located in Fleet Street, between St Dunstan’s Church and alittle street called Hen and Chicken Court. He hung out his sign: Easy shaving for apenny! and he also advertised other things. For example, he put jars with teeth inthe window. You see, barbers often pulled teeth in those days. He also showed jarsof blood, because barbers also took blood from people to cure them of differentdiseases. Along with the jars of teeth and blood, there were also wigs of humanhair. Sweeney made them himself.The shop was a small, dark place with a single barber’s chair in the middle of thefloor, a bench for waiting customers and a shelf full of combs, scissors, and, ofcourse, razors. It was a building with two floors and a basement. Sweeney livedabove the shop and used the basement for evil purposes. It was a very sinisterbusiness. 3 Thomas Peckett Prest: Writer for a Fleet Street NewspaperMy name is Thomas Peckett Prest and I work as a writer on Fleet Street. I becameinterested in Sweeney Todd soon after his arrival on Fleet Street, and I wrote abook about him later.Todd was a very disagreeable character with heavy eyebrows and a lot of blackhair. he had an evil look in his eyes. he was never happy and often complainedabout the criminals and drunks outside his door.In 1875 the Daily Courant, a Fleet Street newspaper, wrote about a murder. A Cut-Throat BarberA young gentleman from the country was murdered in Fleet Street while on a visit to London.During a walk through the city, the gentleman stopped to admire the clock of St Dunstan’s Churchand began to talk with a barber. The two men argued and suddenly, the barber took out a razor andcut the throat of the young man. Then, the barber disappeared into Hen and Chicken Court.There was only one barber shop between St Dunstan’s and Hen and Chicken Court– Sweeney Todd’s barber shop. How did he escape justice? 21
  22. 22. Soon after that incident, Sweeney’s name was mentioned again in connection withanother murder. An apprentice went to Sweeney’s shop for a haircut and carelesslyshowed him a large sum of money belonging to his employer. Sweeney could notresist the temptation. The employer came looking for the poor boy, but neverfound him, or the money. Sweeney wasn’t arrested for that crime, either.Sweeney used his skills as a cutler’s apprentice to build an ingenious mechanism tohelp him kill and hide his victims’ bodies. The customer sat in the barber’s chairand Sweeney cut his throat with his razor. Then, he pressed a special button andthe poor victim fell through a hole in the floor to the basement far below. Afterthat, the barber’s chair jumped back into place, ready for the next victim.In 18th century London, many murders were mysteries. However, as more peopleentered the demon barber’s shop and were never seen again, there began to berumours about Sweeney’s real activities. There were also problems in St Dunstan’s,the old church next door. After Sweeney Todd’s arrival in the area, the smell fromthere became intolerable. Ladies held perfumed handkerchiefs over their nosesduring church services, and the vicar often sneezed during his sermon. Finally, thevicar called Sir Richard Blunt, the chief of the police, to investigate the problem.Sir Richard Blunt didn’t immediately connect Sweeney Todd to the smell in thechurch. But he looked into his records and discovered that a local woman onceaccused Todd of stealing some silver shoe buckles. The police found the buckles inhis shop but he was not imprisoned because the buckles were very ordinary ones.According to the woman, her husband wore those buckles the day of hismysterious disappearance several months earlier.Blunt was suspicious and decided to watch Sweeney’s shop closely. Over the nextfew months, three policemen saw many men entering the shop for a shave orhaircut and never leaving it. The police became more convinced that Sweeney wasmurdering customers, and somehow, St Dunstan’s Church was connected to thecrime.Finally, Blunt and his men decided to go down into the tunnels under the church.They were shocked to find an enormous pile of bodies there, lying one on top ofeach other. The pile reached halfway to the ceiling. The policemen continuedwalking along the tunnels. These led to Sweeney’s shop and from there to a bakeryin Bell Yard.A widow, Margaret Lovett, owned the bakery. Her first husband died undermysterious circumstances a few years earlier. After that, Sweeney helped her openthe bakery. Soon afterwards, Mrs Lovett began to sell “the most delicious meat piesin London”. They became very popular on Fleet Street.It took some time but the police finally understood the horrific connectionbetween Sweeney’s murders and the bakery: Sweeney Todd was murdering his 22
  23. 23. customers and he was taking the meat from the bodies to Mrs Lovett. She wasusing the meat to fill her pies!The police still needed more evidence to prove their theory. Sir Richard’s menwere ordered to accompany every customer into Sweeney’s shop to prevent himkilling anybody else.Policemen soon found clothes and jewellery in Sweeney’s flat with the victims’names and initials written on some of them. Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett werearrested immediately. After giving a full confession, Mrs Lovett poisoned herselfand Sweeney Todd was left to go on trial alone. 4 Frank Raymond: Reporter at the Trial of Sweeney ToddMy name is Frank Raymond and I was the reporter for the Daily Courant during thetrial of Sweeney Todd. London was very excited as the trial approached inDecember 1801. In my entire career as a reporter, I never saw such excitement fora criminal trial.Todd was actually on trial for the murder of one sailor, Francis Thornhill. Despitethe large number of bodies and the large amount of evidence at his home, policecould not identify any other victims. Although the barber was a serial killer, onemurder was enough for him to be executed.The prosecutor, dressed in a black gown and a white wig, opened his case.‘Mr Thornhill was ordered to take some Oriental pearls, worth £16,000, to a younglady in London,’ he began. ‘Thornhill’s ship arrived, and he went into the city todeliver the pearls. On his way, he entered the prisoner’s shop for a shave, andnobody saw him again.’Todd admitted shaving the sailor but said, ‘I completed the job and Thornhill left.’‘Gentlemen, those Oriental pearls soon appeared at the home of a man called MrJohn Mundel,’ the prosecutor continued. ‘Sweeney Todd sold them to him for£1,000. Is that not enough evidence of his guilt?’Then, the prosecutor described the scene under St Dunstan’s Church. ‘There was apile of new bodies with hardly any meat on them, but enough to produce theterrible smell in the church.’After that, the prosecutor described the connecting tunnels between Fleet Streetand Bell Yard, and linked it all to the evidence in Sweeney Todd’s house. ‘His housewas full of the possessions and clothing of 160 people,’ he said to the shocked 23
  24. 24. courtroom. ‘Yes, gentlemen of the jury, 160 people! And Francis Thornhill’s jacketwas among the clothing. Is a jacket enough evidence to imprison a man? The lawsays no, and requires the body of the murdered man. We’ve got that evidencebecause Mr Thornhill’s body was found among the skeletons under the church.’Sir Richard Blunt, the chief of the police, testified next. ‘In my investigations, Idiscovered that ten out of 13 victims planned to have a shave or haircut,’ he said.‘Then, I heard about the disappearance of Francis Thornhill. He also went to Todd’sshop and nobody saw him leave it.’The last witness for the prosecution was Thornhill’s doctor, Sylvester Steers. Heidentified a leg bone under Todd’s shop as belonging to Thornhill.‘How did you come to this conclusion?’ the prosecutor asked.‘Mr Thornhill had an unusual and painful accident as a young man,’ the doctoranswered. ‘Although he was cured, his bone was still deformed. I was his doctorand I recognized it.’Then, it was the defence lawyer’s turn to speak. He had a difficult job, but he triedhis best. ‘There’s no evidence against my client, just strange stories about badsmells in churches, ingenious chairs, secret tunnels and meat pies,’ he began.‘Really, gentlemen of the jury, this evidence is an insult to your intelligence.’Next, he attacked the prosecution’s evidence. ‘How could the disappearance ofrespectable men have any connection to Sweeney Todd?’ he asked. ‘Respectablemen like being shaved, and even Sir Richard Blunt had a shave several times at myclient’s shop, yet here he is, alive and well to give evidence today.‘And the smell of St Dunstan’s? Why not say my client committed a crime becausethis courtroom is not well ventilated?’The most serious evidence against Sweeney Todd was the disappearance ofFrancis Thornhill. ‘Why should my client be declared guilty of this murder?’ thedefence lawyer said. ‘Hundreds of people may have seen him come out of the shop– and no doubt they did – but they didn’t recognize him because he was a stranger.As for the leg bone…the doctor says he recognizes it, but gentlemen of the jury,imagine if a man brought a window to this courtroom and declared it belonged to acertain house. Would you believe him?’He concluded his defence by blaming Margery Lovett for all the murders andsaying her suicide clearly showed her guilt.The judge summed up the case and then the jury returned a “guilty” verdict afteronly five minutes.‘Have you got anything to say before the sentence?’ the judge asked Todd. 24
  25. 25. ‘I’m not guilty!’ Todd shouted.‘It is now my painful responsibility to pass sentence upon you. You will be takenfrom here to a place of execution and hanged by the neck until you are dead,’ thejudge declared. ‘Your dead body will be cut up. May heaven have compassion uponyou.’On 25th January, 1582, in the prison yard at Newgate, Sweeney Todd was hanged infront of a crowd of thousands, and after his execution, his body was cut up.So Sweeney Todd ended his life in the same way so many of his victims did…as apile of meat and bones. 25